So the rumors have been bubbling up for weeks, but today—after a closed-door city council session earlier in the week–Alameda’s City Manager Debra Kurita, who has served the city for more than three years, tendered her resignation.
Archive for the 'Island Life' Category
In other housing news, it sounds like most Bay Area homeowners won’t qualify for the new federal mortgage relief plan, based on the size of their mortgages (too big) and the percentage by which they’re ‘under water,’ or owing more than their home’s value. Use this Zillow-based search engine to check out the percentage of homes underwater. You can search by city, county or zip code.
Life on the Island, the column I write for the print edition of the Alameda Journal, is up online now. This week it’s about Save Our City! Alameda and how the group’s tactic of asserting that the city is on the verge of bankruptcy as a way to bolster opposition to development at Alameda Point just serves to muddle debate and make it harder for people to get to the real, complicated issues that concern Alamedans.
The Alameda Journal‘s Peter Hegarty has this story up about a meth bust on Alameda Ave. in Alameda. The East Bay Express has an item up about the arrest, too. What’s most interesting about the Express post is the way it characterizes Alameda, in kind of a snotty way. “Alameda,” writes the Express’s Kathleen Richards, “home to old-fashion ice cream stores, barber shops, La Piñata and meth dealers.” Sometimes it gets tiresome to be a city summed up in clever catch phrases—someone told me on the playground this morning something she’d heard people say about Alameda, “Home to newly weds and nearly deads.”
After narrowing the list down to about a dozen California cities – most of which, incidentally, are facing the same budget problems that we are – I ended up 35 miles southwest of here. What I found was a city that spends far more money on parks and libraries than we do – and less on its fire department, despite the fact that Redwood City’s fire department handles more calls than ours does.
Here’s what she found about Park and Recreation services:
Redwood City spends twice what Alameda does on its parks and recreation services, despite the fact that workers there have only 14 acres more of parkland to maintain. A lot of the amenities offered – two pools, a senior center, a teen center, a skate park, dog parks – are identical to those offered here. But Redwood City pays far more to maintain those amenities, and more to staff programs.
On the flip side, there’s one department we spend more money on, and that’s fire. We spent $21.5 million to Redwood City’s $17.3 million, with $19 million for workers’ salaries, benefits and overtime to their $14.5 million. Our fire department is over 100 strong, compared to 70 in Redwood City. And our department has a lifetime health care benefit for spouses that Redwood City’s doesn’t.
You can read the whole piece here—and Ellson promises there are more details to come.
As detailed by Lauren Do over at Blogging Bayport, David Howard, chief of Save our City! Alameda, the group that is advancing the argument that the City of Alameda is on the edge of bankruptcy (as part of an effort to side-line plans for development at Alameda Point), took this quotation from a letter from Fire Chief David Kapler about cuts to fire department overtime:
Setting aside history, the current economic situation (local, state and federal) is what is forcing this move. If the city does not adjust spending, it would be facing bankruptcy in as little as 36 – 48 months. If that were to happen the impact to the Department and its members would be much worse than temporary brownouts.
And changed it to this:
the City (is) facing bankruptcy in as little as 36-48 months
And then Save Our City! Alameda blasted the misquote out in a press release. In the real email, the Chief says if we don’t adjust spending we might just face bankruptcy in three or four years. The version put out by Save our City! Alameda, with the word ‘is’ inserted, makes it read like the fire chief is saying bankruptcy is imminent. But, of course, most every institution, public and private, will likely be will be in financial straits if spending is not adjusted as revenue falls.
As I have said before, there are many rational reasons to question the plans for development at Alameda Point, and plenty nuanced discussions that we as a community should be having about what the future can and should look like there, but distorting the fire chief’s meaning in order to advance that cause is–uh? What do you think? And then continuing to do so even when the inaccuracy is documented is further perplexing.
According to this article, the Webster and Posey Tubes to and from Oakland will be closed Monday and Tuesday night this week so they can be inspected. This after a chunk of concrete fell off the ceiling last week.
Alameda Journal reporter Peter Hegarty has a little piece up (did you know that you can read all Alameda Journal stories online here?) about some mysterious bones that were unearthed this morning by Alameda Public Works employees on Washington Street. Officials are saying that the bones are about 80 years old.
The Webster Tube from Oakland to Alameda was shut down on Sunday after an 8-foot-by-8-foot chunk of decorative concrete fell onto the roadway about 6 p.m. According to Caltrans no one was injured, and the tube was reopened in time for this morning’s commute. Details here. Last Thursday, the parallel Posey Tube, which moves trafffic from Alameda to Oakland, was shut down for a bus accident.
I got a phone call yesterday with a recorded message from an Alameda firefighter. The message was so fast that I did not catch the name of the firefighter who was speaking, though I think it was Mike or Mark. The core of the message was that cuts to the fire department (on January 26 the department has been mandated to reduce overtime) will impact response time for some Alameda neighborhoods. The message mentioned the Gold Coast, Bay Farm and Alameda’s West End and then urged the listener to lobby City Hall to prevent cuts. How much does it cost to auto-dial every Alameda household? Who funds these efforts?
I can’t help but think of the line from Obama’s speech Tuesday, in which he honored the hard work and sacrifices Americans are making to make things better for all of us. He referenced employees who allow their own hours to be cut so others may keep their jobs. That is bravery, no? To say, I will make do with a little less so others don’t lose everything entirely.
In a time when so many are losing jobs, losing retirement security, having their pay cut and otherwise struggling economically, I can not find legitimacy in the stance being taken by Alameda firefighters. There is not an infinite pot of money. Times are bad. Everyone should be impacted as budgets shrink…not everyone with the exception of some. Of course I wish it weren’t so…of course everyone wishes it weren’t so. But it is. So, it’s time to move away from the adversarial stance, an I-me-my orientation, and it’s time for the firefighters to work with the city to maintain emergency services as well as all the other services that make for a vital community.
As I have mentioned previously, Alameda firefighters make over $100,000 a year, with many earning 10 and 20 and 40 thousand additional dollars a year in over time. Alameda firefighters receive full, life-time medical benefits for themselves and a spouse after just five years of service. They are eligible to retire at 50, with 3 percent of their highest salary in pension for each year of service. Meanwhile, Alameda’s non-public safety employees receive only a tiny stipend (something around $100 a month) toward health care in retirement, and they are eligible to retire at 55, with 2 percent of their highest salary per year of service in pension. I am not, of course, saying that I don’t think firefighters should be well-compensated and have security in retirement…I just think that taking a hard bargain stance when the current system is so out of balance (so many employees now have no pensions, no health care on retirement…heck, no health care even while they are working) and when the economy is such a disaster is really perplexing.